Here we see the aircrew of “Waddy’s Wagon,” a B-29 Superfortress from the 20th Air Force, 73rd Bomb Wing, 497th Bomb Group, 869th Bomb Squadron. They were enjoying a lighthearted moment posing to duplicate the nose art of their aircraft. Unfortunately, all of these young men were killed in action when their aircraft was shot down over Japan in January of 1945.
Pilot Captain Walter R. Young, O-382584 (MIA / KIA) Ponca City, OK
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert M. Phillips, O-806901 (MIA / KIA) TN
Navigator 2nd Lt. Paul R. Garrison, Jr., O-698695 (MIA / KIA) Lancaster, PA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. John F. Ellis, O-685457 (MIA / KIA) Moberly, MO
Engineer 2nd Lt. Bernard S. Black, O-866285 (MIA / KIA) Woodhaven, NY
CFC SSgt Lawrence L. Lee, 37252164 (MIA / KIA) Max, ND
Radio SSgt George E. Avon, 32935478 (MIA / KIA) Syracuse, NY
Left Gunner Sgt Corbett L. Carnegie, 12214591 (MIA / KIA) Grindstone Island, NY
Right Gunner Sgt Wilbur J. Chapman, 38606304 (MIA / KIA) Panhandle, TX
Tail Gunner SSgt Joseph J. Gatto, 12024315 (MIA / KIA) Falconer, NY
Radar SSgt Kenneth N. Mansir, 11097819 (MIA / KIA) Randolph, ME
Standing Tall in the Rear Escape Hatch
On January 9, 1945, Captain Walter R. Young piloted a B-29 from Isley Field, Saipan, as part of the 73rd Bomb Wing’s 18th mission, targeting the Nakajima Musashino Aircraft Factory near Tokyo. A total of 72 B-29s participated in this operation. However, the mission faced challenges from the start, as strong winds in the jet stream scattered the formation, causing the bombers to arrive in three separate waves.
As the bombers approached their target, they were ambushed by fighters from the Japanese Army Air Force’s 47th Sentai based at Narimasu Airfield and Ki-61 Tonys from the 244th Sentai. These intercepting fighters resorted to desperate measures, deliberately ramming into the B-29s. Additionally, Imperial Japanese Navy J1N1 Irvings from the 302nd Air Group joined the attack, claiming to have downed one bomber without any losses.
Captain Young’s B-29 was reportedly attacked by enemy fighters and struck by gunfire. It was last observed around 3:41 pm at an altitude of 27,000 feet, approximately 10 miles east of Chosi Point, Japan, descending alongside another B-29 piloted by Lt. Crownell, which had one engine ablaze. There was no visible damage to Captain Young’s aircraft, leading to speculation that it may have made a controlled ditching into the sea. Unfortunately, when the aircraft did not return from the mission, the entire crew was declared Missing In Action (MIA), making it one of six B-29s lost during that fateful operation.
This incident highlights the intense and dangerous nature of aerial combat during World War II, with both sides resorting to extreme measures to try to gain the upper hand. The loss of Captain Young’s B-29 and its crew serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by countless individuals during the conflict. Their bravery and dedication in the face of adversity will always be remembered and honored.
On January 10th, 1946, the entire crew was officially declared killed in action (KIA).
Captain Young Led the Way in Art and in Life
Young earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart, posthumously.
Phillips earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Garrison earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Ellis earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Black earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Lee earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Avon earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Carnegie earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Chapman earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker in West Park Cemetery in Hereford, TX the epitaph reads “shot down over Pacific gunner on B-29 Waddy’s Wagon”.
Gatto earned the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart, posthumously. He also has a memorial marker at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Falconer, NY.
Mansir earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.